Friday, March 13, 2009

Trying to fathom the immense virtue of the Blessed Mother

Theologians distinguish two consecutive stages in the sanctification of Our Lady. The first took place at the moment of her spotless conception.


Mary’s soul emerged from the Creator’s hand all innocent and pure, and endowed with the rarest of virtues. From that moment, the Virgin, resplendent with supernatural beauty, surpassed in holiness not only the most glorious angel, but all the angels and saints together.

Thus did the Holy Ghost deposit this first jewel in the crown of His future Spouse. The admirable treasures of this first “dowry” produced abundant fruit. Nothing is simpler than our heavenly Mother’s singular correspondence with grace, yet nothing is more inspiring for our piety.

She seeks nothing extraordinary for ascending from virtue to virtue, nor is she ambitious for the exceptional missions that Providence sometimes entrusts to souls. Indeed, before the angel’s salutation, she did not even suspect that she was the Virgin chosen from all eternity. She does not expect heroic sacrifices whereby she would shed her blood in profusion. Instead, she completely surrenders her future to the Heavenly Father. Her interior life can be entirely summed up as a double movement of great simplicity and prodigious strength. She hastened, threw, and veritably engulfed herself in the abyss of her own nothingness, then soared to God with equal vigor in the fullness of her humility and love.

Every one of her actions, even the most ordinary, is perfumed with the aroma of deliberate humility and abundant charity. Not for a second in all her lifetime did she remove her eyes from the Infinite Beauty, nor ever fail to remain lowly. Even while sleeping she remained virtuous, for she did this also with an obedient heart. She can truthfully say, then, with the spouse of the Canticle of Canticles: “I sleep, and my heart watcheth.”[37]

What is the result of such constant interior life? Mary’s soul grows in holiness at an ever-increasing rate. Her love expands with an ever-more-blazing ardor like the windswept fires in forests desiccated by summer’s heat. So many are her accumulated merits that we abstain from calculating them even from afar. Do not think such progress in virtue was easy for the Blessed Virgin! She certainly experienced no inner temptations, since her Immaculate Conception sheltered her from concupiscence. Just like her divine Son, however, she was subject to the law of effort.

Jesus endured and was often overwhelmed by fatigue. The Gospel narrative shows Jesus exhausted and sleeping in a boat while the tempest rages and huge waves lash the bow. We see Him, yet again, forced by weariness to sit on the edge of Jacob’s well. Since Mary was not given more privileges than Our Lord, we can be certain she did not reach her incomparable holiness without effort.

God did not preserve us from original sin as He did the Mother of the Incarnate Word. Yet, on the day of our baptism, He erased its trace from our souls. When, having had the misfortune of offending Him, we repent, He forgives our sins and, through the sacrament of Penance, we are reconciled to Him. Like Mary, we, too, must make these gifts from Heaven fruitful.

If you want to progress in the interior life, imitate the double action we have admired and observed in the heart of Our Lady. Begin by humbling yourself. Should God allow you to fall into grave sin, make use of this humiliation. Do not forget your wretchedness, having fully experienced its weight. Should the Heavenly Father have preserved you from mortal sin, all the more reason to be humble. Saint Frances Borgia deemed himself beneath Satan. Indeed, he thought himself capable, without the help of grace, of any crime! Finally, carry out your duties in life faithfully, because such is the adorable will of God. This, briefly, is the secret of holiness. Should you stray from this path, you will find only dangers and illusions!

The second sanctification of Mary lasted nine months, from the Annunciation to the birth of Our Lord in the manger at Bethlehem. His intimate and prolonged union with His mother worked miracles of grace in her that were more indescribable than the previous ones! How could it have been otherwise?

We know from the Gospels that Our Lord’s presence has a sovereign efficacy. A supernatural virtue emanated from His person which both healed the sick and transformed hearts. “And all the multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed all.”[38]

A poor woman who had been sick for many years said to herself: “If I shall touch only His garment, I shall be healed.”[39]

The sinner Mary Magdalene prostrated herself at the Savior’s feet, covering them with her kisses and bathing them with her tears. Through this divine contact, the flood of her iniquities was overwhelmed by the even greater flood of His divine mercy.

Yet, the power of Our Lord’s presence did not effect everyone equally. Many who knew him on this earth did not allow grace to touch their hardened hearts, nor did they recognize the Master. They were devoid of faith. The healing power of Our Lord’s divine presence acted upon others according to the degree of their faith.

How completely did Our Lord’s presence affect the soul of Our Lady! Her beautiful conscience presented no obstacle to the work of His mysterious action. Indeed, the heart of the Virgin remained pure and spotless. Her faith was unfailing, her confidence unshakable, and her love seemed boundless. During the nine months of her pregnancy an ocean of grace flooded her. To work the salvation of your soul, Jesus wishes to enter your heart. In the Holy Eucharist, He communicates His infinite life to increase the action of sanctifying grace within you. He thus causes His rays to shine in your heart, allowing supernatural virtues to blossom. He brings you His precious blood so that this beneficial dew quench the fire of concupiscence in your body. The Eucharist is the bread of angels and the wine that engenders virgins.

The Real Presence of the Savior in this sacrament is just as efficacious as His visible presence on earth. Jesus lost none of His power or love by ascending into Heaven. Why then do you draw such scant fruit from your Communions? It is because you present obstacles to His divine action! “What obstacles?” you might ask. You are too faithful to receive Holy Communion poorly disposed. Likewise, it is not sin which prevents the sacramental action of divine grace from taking place in you. No, the obstacle is a lack of trust. You simply do not sufficiently esteem the indescribable visit of the Body and Blood of Our Savior. You do not pray to Our Lord with the burning faith and holy expectation that conquers Our Lord’s heart. In those precious moments of actual grace, present to Him the litany of your woes. Mention them all without forgetting a single one. Say to Him: “I believe firmly that from this heap of dung Thou canst cause virtues to flourish. I ask Thee this in the name of Thy promises, and I go as far as to demand that Thou dost transform my heart. Day and night will I cry out to Thee until Thou dost accomplish this miracle of love.”

Without doubt, He will tell you what He told others during His ministry: “As you have believed, so be it done to thee.”[40] If your trust is small, you will obtain little; if it is great, you will obtain much.

Perhaps your faith is asleep. Perhaps you are gripped by secret anxieties. Ask the Blessed Virgin to inspire you with an unshakable trust in Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. Ask her for this favor in the name of her maternal love and the name of the final words of her agonizing Son to her on the Cross. Whatever your weakness or pain, surrender them with closed eyes to God Who loves you to the point of concealing Himself for you under the veil of the Host.

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